To meet tomorrow’s challenges

How to increase resilience in international development today

Making the ‘new normal’ a ‘better normal’  

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense human suffering and has only increased the international development challenges facing those that deliver aid, including governments, donors, multilateral and bilateral development banks and agencies, NGOs, and other private and public development partners. Its magnitude, both for beneficiaries and donors, is unprecedented.

However, crisis also creates opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic is providing the international development ecosystem a chance to redefine its vision and strategies, funding modalities and collaboration models. It is also allowing for a different approach to meet workforce requirements and delivery models, while reinforcing the imperative for trust and transparency expected by society.

We believe that with the right focus and approach around these elements, the development community can emerge stronger, more resilient and better able to drive sustainable impact.

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To meet tomorrow's challenges

An agenda for action

Through our work around the world, we have identified five key areas that can help the international development community rethink how they build in the resilience not just to resume operating fully during and after the COVID-19 pandemic but to weather future disruptions.

These five areas are not silos but interdependent. They should be viewed through a wide-angle lens that combines innovation, technology, solution-sharing, modern management and strategy, along with international, national and local development experience.

Agenda for action

Better alignment of strategy and funding is key within and across organisations. This helps meet local needs and drives towards the vision of the SDGs. Innovative finance programmes, such as new forms of public-private partnership, will provide much needed access to funds as government budgets shrink.

Development challenges need comprehensive, multipronged approaches to balance competing needs. Deeper collaboration among donors, governments, the private sector and civil society widens perspectives, reduces gaps and overlaps, and improves the consistency and effectiveness of interventions.

Developing the skills to handle both short-term crisis management and longer-term preparedness requires a focus on improving practical capabilities in all areas, including management, operations, financial and strategic risk analysis, and planning. Digital skills and scenario development techniques are equally important.

Digital transformations will help organisations become more agile and effective. They require an adaptable, upskilled workforce. New ideas can originate anywhere, so organisations should adopt best practices from other sectors to help deliver programmes that have an impact and are in line with donor aims and objectives.

In today’s environment of public protests and COVID-19 responses, leaders must deliberately shape actions and messages that build trust. This requires effective accountability systems that thwart corruption, fraud, waste and abuse at local, regional, national and international levels, with clear messaging to allay citizen concerns.

Case study: Filling the financing gaps for the SDGs in Nigeria through collaboration

The problem: Even before COVID-19, Nigeria knew it needed help financing its efforts to meet the UN’s SDGs. In 2017, the Nigerian Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG), a multi-stakeholder initiative with a

mandate to mobilise the private sector to help fill the SDG financing gaps, was established. PwC Nigeria is included in the inaugural group of key organisations that make up the PSAG and serves, pro bono, as the SDG watchdog providing research and administrative support.

Where we helped: To date there are 40 PSAG members working across nine clusters with a budget of US$77m, two of which have implemented joint projects. One focus for PwC is education. The International Monetary Fund estimates Nigeria will have to spend 7.7 percentage points of GDP to achieve the education SDG goals by 2030. Today, that figure is 1.6% of GDP. PwC is part of a PSAG group looking at ways to regenerate basic education, including giving tax rebates as an incentive to spend on training.

The impact: The key comments in Nigeria’s 2020 Voluntary National Review on Sustainable Development Goals note that the country is making progress on its funding strategy and conclude that the private sector has a key role to play. Close to half of the PSAG funds have been spent on children and youth. The PSAG is also contributing to core initiatives related to delivering the SDGs by 2030.

Case study: Building capacity and capability: The Girls’ Education Challenge

The problem: According to UNESCO estimates, around the world, 132 million girls are out of school, including 34.3 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age and 67.4 million of upper-secondary school age. Reducing that number by 2030 is part of the SDGs.

Where we helped: In 2012, the UK government set up the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) fund with USAID. Funded by UK Aid (formerly the Department for International Development), it has an £855m budget that promotes girls’ education in some of the most challenging environments. This includes projects in Pakistan, Ethiopia and Somalia, and an initiative co-funded with USAID in Afghanistan. The aim is to reach more than 1 million of the most marginalised girls (and some boys) and improve their life chances through education. Since its inception, it has been managed by PwC, which brings together a network of participating organisations that deliver projects on the ground.

The impact: In the first phase, from 2012–17, the GEC funded 37 projects in 18 countries, and there is a second phase to 2025 that expands to 41 projects. These are good examples of cross-border collaboration. Through this second phase, the GEC is ensuring that more than 1.4 million marginalised girls and 230,000 highly marginalised girls continue to learn, complete primary school, transition to and through secondary education, and then enter further education, training or employment. The data explorer on the GEC website shows the progress of the first phase of projects.

Case study: Implementing a large-scale EU–Asia international trade programme from 2016–20

The problem: Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) represent 99% of businesses in the EU and provide around three-quarters of all jobs. In search of growth, many SMEs try to expand and look for business opportunities outside their home country. However, accessing and entering new markets is challenging and risky for many SMEs, given the uncertainties about how to do business in foreign markets and the steep investments required. PwC supported the European Commission in implementing EU Gateway | Business Avenues, an EU-funded initiative creating a path for SMEs to establish long-lasting business collaborations in China, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia.

Where we helped: From 2016 to 2020, PwC implemented a coaching network for the programme that is supporting more than 2,600 SMEs across all European Union countries. Our role was to provide a link between the European and Asian SMEs. It involved the recruitment of thousands of SMEs in nine economic sectors in Asia, the assessment of more than 6,300 applications, the organisation of 56 full-service business missions and the delivery of coaching on how to enter new markets. We also performed matchmaking for all beneficiaries in the target markets, organising more than 30,000 one-to-one meetings. Participants believed these meetings added significant value, as they allowed SMEs to have access to local business partners in the target markets.

The impact: Since 2016, 56% of participants reported having concluded sales or signed a contract in an Asian market as a consequence of their participation in the business missions. Ninety percent of companies generated additional leads after the business meetings, and more than 80% are satisfied with the programme and have applied again.

A redefined ambition for development

Global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic are reinforcing the reality that resilience isn’t just a buzzword. In tomorrow’s world, resilience must be embraced by all stakeholders in international development, at every level, not just the largest organisations. Going it alone won’t work. Only by coming together and pooling expertise will we be able to overcome challenges that overwhelm our resources and threaten a sustainable future for all peoples.

From strategy and funding to service delivery and rebuilding trust, innovative solutions to enhance resilience in every aspect of development are out there to be found. These cross-disciplinary capabilities can help the international development community deliver on its promises today, and they are the model for tomorrow’s future success.

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Agnieszka Gajewska

Agnieszka Gajewska

Global Government & Public Sector Leader, PwC Poland

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